The exact magnitude of that reduction is unclear, but the research seems to point in the same direction: lowering the number of hours we work would help to reduce our impact on the environment. By working less, we produce fewer goods and services that require precious resources to make. We also consume less in the process of getting our job done. Less work means less carbon-intensive commuting, less energy-sucking office space, and less time on power-hungry computer systems. In addition, working less would help to break down the work-spend cycle. Fewer hours at work mean we have more time to do other things such as travelling, preparing food or fixing broken household items.
We are also less likely to rely on environmentally costly timesavers such as high-speed travel or takeaway food delivered in plastic containers by someone riding a motorbike. But reducing the number of working hours would not guarantee a cut in environmental emissions. It could actually be bad for the climate if people used their newfound free time to do things which were more environmentally harmful.
Instead of working, they could travel long distances on holiday or hit the shops. The good news is that there is some evidence that when people are given time off, they tend to gravitate towards low environmental impact activities. When France instituted a hour working week in , people developed less materialistic values and tended to use their free time with their families, resting or participating in sports or cultural events. Examples of convivial infrastructure include parks, libraries, allotments, walking and cycling tracks, community halls and sports grounds.
Reducing the time we spend working would be welcomed by many. Experiments with the shorter working week dating back to the s found that employees tended to be more satisfied with their job.
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More recent research has found that less time spent at work would also help to deal with other problems such as making work more accessible for women, reducing inequalities between overworked and underworked and making organisations more productive. A range of organisations including a small UK law firm , some public schools in the US and a New Zealand insurance company are experimenting with the policy.
As we struggle to find ways of making our world more sustainable, we need to identify innovations that give us tangible gains in the short term but are also good for the planet in the longer term. All too often measures to address the climate crisis seem too abstract, too distant and too painful.
Working less is different. It gives people a palpable short-term payoff of free time while benefiting the environment in the longer term. When you submit a report, we'll investigate it and take the appropriate action. We'll get back to you only if we require additional details or have more information to share. Unable to send report.
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